Mike Coughlan, Technical Director: After a difficult two races we’ve been back at the factory going through the data to try to understand where we need to improve. We feel we have a better understanding of where we are and the whole team has been working hard to improve our competitiveness going into the next few races. Ultimately we are looking at a significant upgrade for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The ambient conditions in China will be kinder although the weather can be quite changeable. The cooler temperatures we expect are not only more favourable for the car but also for both the team and driver. The circuit is also usually quite hard on tyres, so that could prove another challenge.
Pastor Maldonado: This can be quite an unpredictable race and the weather conditions are a particular challenge. There is also a mix of different corners so you need to get the right balance between good straight line speed for the very long straight, whilst still having good grip in the lower speed corners. Another challenge is the strategy as there are a few difficult decisions the engineers face when deciding what type of race to run here. We haven’t had the best start to the season and we need some time to improve our car to be solid in the points, but the whole team is working very hard so let’s wait and see how we can adapt the car for this race.
Valtteri Bottas: I have experience driving the Shanghai International Circuit as I drove in FP1 last year and it’s a track that shares similar characteristics to the last Grand Prix in Malaysia. Whilst not as hot and humid, the weather can be variable so you need a car that works well in different conditions. Getting the tyres to work will be the biggest challenge facing all of the teams, as the temperatures are often low and the smooth track surface is quite different to what we saw in the first two races. I was unlucky not to score my first points in the last race and whilst we aren’t quite where we feel we should be, the team has been working hard to understand the car and bring a package to this race that’s a step forward in performance.
Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 Head of Track Operations: Shanghai is unique on the calendar as there is a 1.3km straight where the engine is at full revs and top speed for nearly 18secs, but a relatively low percentage of the lap is spent at full throttle. The engine therefore needs to deliver throughout the entire range. Under these circumstances engine braking support needs to be consistent to assist with a stable rear end, but the top speed must not suffer on the long straight. The high amount of dust from the factories around the circuit means grip is low, but can also be ingested into the engine, putting it at risk from internal damage.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director: We’ll be bringing our P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres to China: the same combination as last year although of course the tyres are generally all softer and faster this year. Shanghai is definitely a race where strategy can make a huge difference: in the past we’ve seen a wide variety of strategies being used, with some very close finishes. A car that uses its tyres well here certainly has the capability to spring a surprise. Compared to the last round in Malaysia and the next one in Bahrain, we should see some comparatively cool temperatures in China, but with plenty of energy going through the tyres we would expect most competitors to stop three times. We’ve obviously had quite a wet start to the season, and we wouldn’t exclude the possibility of seeing rain again in China, so as always we will bring the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet.